My partner Zagreus has written a companion post to this one, that I feel helps give a more whole, unified picture of the Birch Goddess when read in addition to my own. You can read his beautiful post here.
In the midst of a total emotional breakdown in the late summer, early fall months of 2011, a woman came to me and claimed me as hers. She did not give me her name, and never has, but at the time she seemed fond of the temporary title I called her: Universe Personified. It was in a moment of total surrender to everything that she came to take everything from me, and it was one of the most absolutely terrifying experiences I have ever had. She stole my emotions from me and gave me numbness; she stole my freedom and trapped me; and for a while, it seemed as if she had stolen me entirely and overridden Zagreus’ claims to me.
But, instead of stealing me from him, she claimed him, too. We found out later that she is Our Mother, the currently unnamed goddess, through whom my brother Zagreus and I were born.
She had first appeared to me, bathed in golden light that obscured her face, in a grove of trees that I did not recognize: white bark with black marks, whose gold-dipped fall foliage seemed to sing in the breeze. I had never heard of birch trees before, growing up in a place where they do not thrive, and thought I was making them up. But she felt so strongly associated with those trees, I have since called her the Birch Goddess.
For the first year, our interactions were very rocky. She wanted me to die for her, and while I had done the death and rebirth thing before, her technique was very difficult: cold, and distant, and hard. She showed no feelings, no understanding. How I felt did not matter, what mattered is she got what she was after from me. Interacting with her was a great source of hurt, and feeling lost.
Things have since gotten a bit better. I still do not know her name, although there are a handful of deities I think are possibilities, or that she was a kind of proto being for. She still does not seem to understand me and is still pushy and tactless, and still seems to have a habit for dismemberment and cannibalism, but so do some of the other deities I work with. I have seen her face, now, and it is cold and stern and like stone, but there are times flickers of emotion play across her features, times when her touch feels warm and even gentle. She still most of the time prefers to veil her face in some fashion, and sometimes it seems like her stoic expression when her face is unveiled, is still some level of a mask.
She is November. The crisp breeze. The sun that casts gold, but whose touch lacks eternal warmth. The passing from one season to the next, the captured crystal of the moment when fading autumn yields to death. The frostbitten mornings that surge forth into flame in the light of day, only to return to ice once more. The inevitability of life, a secret stowed safely away deep within the hardening ground, when it seems all is lost.
She is amber, the color of crystallized honey. The dusty, warm scent of fallen leaves, laced with ambergris and kissed with loam and dew. The holding of breath when one is awestruck. The water droplets found in dry earth, and the particles of soil inexplicably floating through the air. The loosening of self, the fading of sanity, and yet the only ledge you have to stand on when surrounded by the abyss. The meeting place of everything, but the complete home of none. She is liminal, but she is so straightforward that metaphor is completely lost on her.
She is the currently-unnamed, beautiful and terrible mother.
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This post is one of the most beautifully poetic things I’ve read in a long time, thank you for sharing it.
The way your partner describes the way the two of you relate to your Mother, towards the end of his piece, is very much in keeping with how I view the nature of the Divine in general, some of what I was trying to get at in our discussion on your Deities post. Do you disagree with his view and assesment, or were we not understanding each other? Or am I misunderstanding his view?
Hello! I am sorry for such a late reply. My partner and I had discussed your comment, then I got so busy I forgot to write back!
I think there was a misunderstanding between us somewhere along the way, because I do agree wholeheartedly with what my partner said. I have been trying to isolate where the misunderstanding occurred, but have not been able to figure it out yet. Can you try to elaborate again, or tell me which part of his post you are referring to?
Your partner said, “…my sister and I exist as a buffer between her and the people. We represent her authority and power on a much more approachable scale, a human scale, the scale of a man’s life, the scale of cities and kingdoms. Not the vast, eternal scale of the mountains and the sea and the sky. That is not to say we do not have our own individual attributes or other meanings as a pair, but this is essentially our first function.” For my vuew and application of soft/squishy polytheism, replace “her/she/our mother” with “the Divine/Universe/Source of All,” and “us/we/my sister and I” with “pantheons/individual Gods.”
The issue there would be that our Mother is not the same as the Divine/Universe/Source of All (even though she did not negate it when I originally referred to her as such, and in a way she is the origin for me in this capacity, but not everyone and everything. She is an individual deity, too). Some gods/goddesses are closer to humanity than others, for various reasons. My partner and I are close to humanity. Our Mother, however, is not, and thus us as a buffer is necessary since I do not think most people who interact with the gods would appreciate her approach.
I do believe in the Universe as Source and as Necessity and Wyrd. I also believe individual deities embody aspects of that, each deity nuanced in a unique way, like a different perspective. So even two gods of the ocean are different from each other – one may emphasize the ocean as bounty, another the ocean as a place of drowning. On the surface they could seem the same god since they are both of the ocean, but they actually are very different. So you can look at them as the same, or as different, depending on how you work. I am terribly fond of nuance, so I do not pay as much attention to the wider scale of things like you seem to. I do not think the way you see it is wrong, just not the way I usually think of things because it interferes with my own path trying to do so.
I wasn’t meaning to imply that your Mother was necessarily the Source (unless, of course, she is, heh), I was just drawing an analogy.
I’m starting to think we might view things rather similarly, but as you say, with perhaps different focus. Though I don’t attempt to work with the All without the “buffers” of “smaller Gods,” but I do, at least in the back of my mind if not more actively, acknowledge that there *is* more than those “buffers.”
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